Authorities in Uganda have charged an imam and his “wife,” a man who cross-dressed to seduce the imam, under the country’s repressive anti-gay laws, local media reported Tuesday.
Defendants Sheikh Mohammed Mutumba and Richard Tumushabe appeared before Mukono Chief Magistrate Juliet Hatanga in court on Tuesday and accepted bail at one million Ugandan shillings ($270 USD) each.
According to Uganda’s Daily Monitor, 27-year-old Imam Sheikh Mutumba was charged with “having carnal knowledge with a person against the order of nature,” an elaborate way of saying he violated the country’s strict sodomy laws. He has since been placed on remand at Ntenjeru prison in Kayunga District, central Uganda.
The Imam’s “wife,” Richard Tumushabe, was also charged with sodomy as well as two counts of theft and will now await trial.
“It is true I did something wrong and I regret it but my current condition forced me to do it,” he pleaded in court. “I grew up on Kampala streets under very harsh conditions that forced me to act the way I did and I regret it.”
The couple was first arrested by police in January when, after living together for more than two weeks, a shocked Mutumba reportedly learned that his “wife” was a man. He was consequently suspended as a cleric at the Kyampisi mosque.
The truth only emerged after Tumushabe was arrested for stealing clothes and a television set from his next-door neighbors. When he was consequently searched by a female police officer, he quickly established that he was male.
“To the shock of the officer, the suspect had stacked clothes in the bra to hoodwink them that they were breasts,” Kayunga District Criminal Investigations Officer Isaac Mugera said at the time.
Reports do not indicate that Tumushabe identifies as a transgender person.
Even more bizarre is the fact that the Imam held a traditional Islamic wedding and reception at his grandmother’s home in December. No one at either event appeared to realize the true identity of the man he was marrying, partly because he was always wearing a hijab.
“The first day he visited, he was wearing a hijab. I even slept with him in my bedroom,” the Imam’s aunt told Nation at the time. “When she told me that she is going to get married, I gave her the go-ahead and asked her to bring him to my home.”
After a full interrogation, Kayunga District Police Commander John Lukooto explained how Tumushabe had repeatedly defrauded other men who fell “in love” with him under his guise as a woman before stealing their money.
Despite being unaware of the nature of his actions, Mutumba’s alleged sodomizing carries sentences ranging from life imprisonment to the death penalty in some states, with many lawmakers pushing to make execution apply nationwide.
“Homosexuality is not natural to Ugandans, but there has been massive recruitment by gay people in schools, and especially among the youth, where they are promoting the falsehood that people are born like that,” Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo told Reuters last October. “Our current penal law is limited. It only criminalizes the act. We want it made clear that anyone who is even involved in promotion and recruitment has to be criminalized. Those that do grave acts will be given the death sentence.”